R J Lea Cigarettes were founded in 1866 and had two premises in Manchester, although they moved to Stockport at a later date. The firm was taken over by John Sinclair in 1937. This set of 50 cards Flowers to Grow was issued in 1913. These cards have a wonderful period look, although they are a bit battered. The rounded corners are an added touch.
Another set by R J Lea, this time from 1924, was the Roses set, issued in Chairman Juniors cigarette packets. Another set of 50 cards. Again, the period look adds to the appeal of this card, as does the detail on the reverse – send in 200 inserts from the cigarette packets to receive a pair of rose garden prints. Another push for brand loyalty.
Also from 1924 is this set of 25 cards, Old Favourites from Godfrey Phillips, London. Godfrey Phillips was founded in 1844 by an eighteen year old and was one of the first companies to issue cigarette cards, including enormous sets of footballer cards in the 1920s. The background landscape detail adds a nice touch to the cards.
Another set also called Old Favourites is the card on the left, from a set of 25 issued by Abdullah and Co in 1936. Abdullah were founded in London in 1902, and moved into premises in Mayfair in 1917 (in the former Fabergé shop). In 1927, Abdullah and Co was bought by Godfrey Phillips, which continued to sell cigarettes under the Abdullah brand name.
On the right is a card from CWS (Co-Operative Wholesale Society), 1924, a rarer card from a set of 24 of English Roses. The Co-Operative Wholesale Society, or the Co-Op as it is popularly known, originated from the principles established by the Rochdale Pioneers, in Toad Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire in 1844. The original Pioneers were 30 workers who struggled to raise one pound capital each, which was invested in food items – butter, flour, sugar, oatmeal and so on – and sold at affordable prices to the local community. The Co-Op soon moved into selling tea and coffee too, with other items following, and although it may seem strange today, considering the ‘ethical’ nature of the Co-Op movement, this included cigarettes.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing sets is this Gallagher’s Wild Flowers set from 1939. The pastel three-quarter borders on each card, and the background landscapes behind the flowers are particularly delightful. The complete set is 48 cards and is a slightly different shape than the usual cigarette card. A set of these cards in mint condition sells for between £30 to £40 today.
The majority of these cards are partial sets or individual cards. None of them are particularly valuable but that isn’t really the point. I’ve picked them up along the way because I like them. If you want to start collecting cigarette cards, W D & H O Wills and Players cards can still be bought, in complete sets, for a few pounds – some for less than £5.